HomeAsian AmericansLegislator Apologizes for Saying Asians Haven't Faced Discrimination

Legislator Apologizes for Saying Asians Haven’t Faced Discrimination

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A Democratic Connecticut State Representative apologized on Wednesday for claiming that Asian Americans “have never been discriminated against” during a Planning and Development Committee Meeting two days before, CNN reports

Michael Winkler, who represents Vernon, Conn., a town that is 72% White according to The CT Mirror, made the statement during a back-and-forth with Greenwich Housing Authority Chairman San Romeo about why one of the wealthiest communities in the U.S. has a Black population of only 3.7%.

When Romeo noted that Greenwich actually has a minority population of 37%, Winkler responded, “Yes, you count Asians and other minorities that have never been discriminated against.”

Other officials present at the meeting were quick to condemn Winkler’s statement, beginning with Democratic Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey, who chairs the committee.

“I will just pause and say for a moment that I think that there have been a number of minority groups who have faced discrimination over time, and particularly, I think, in light of what happened in Atlanta last week,” Vahey said. 

Republican Senator Tony Hwang spoke up, calling Winkler’s comment and other such statements “absolutely unacceptable.” 

“There is no tolerance for it,” Hwang said. “There is no place for it.” He demanded an apology for the comment and an understanding that “what he said was beyond inflammatory, beyond derogatory and beyond ignorant.”

At first, Winkler refused to apologize and instead attempted to clarify his statement.

“Every immigrant group has been discriminated against in the past and is being discriminated against currently,” he said. “But Blacks have suffered the most. Every immigrant group that has come in has risen through and above the Blacks…so they’re the group that I look to when I try to judge how well people are doing for the most downtrodden, the most oppressed.”

Hwang followed Winkler’s explanation with a statement that he was “appalled” with Winkler’s lack of an apology.

“I’m appalled that you don’t feel a compulsion or an understanding to apologize to Asian Americans that you just disparaged because you believe they have been discriminated [against] less,” Hwang said. “You have never been in their shoe[s].”

Hwang reiterated his impassioned assertion in a written statement posted to the Connecticut State Republicans website after the meeting, writing that “today was an incredibly dark day for the Connecticut General Assembly.”

Winkler did apologize later in the meeting, stating, “Discrimination against Asian Americans is very real. And I never meant to indicate otherwise.” 

He then issued another apology on Wednesday, recognizing that his comments were “inexcusable” and reaffirming his commitment to understanding and recognizing “the experiences of those who unfortunately know what it’s like to be discriminated against in areas such as work, education, housing, and more.”

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  1. My multi-media storytelling theater piece Red Altar has played across the United States. It follows 3 generations of one Chinese family that originally started the fishing industry in 1850 in the Monterey Bay despite the legal and illegal acts of violence against them. Every time it consistently gets 2 responses: a standing ovation and that Red Altar should be seen by everyone. The racism and racist acts started the moment we stepped onto this land in 1948. Our history is important in understanding what America needs to acknowledge and rectify with their history of ethnic cleansing of the Native Nations and subsequent violence perpetrated against each new immigrant group. #StopHate

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